INTERVIEW WITH CHRIS FLETCHER OF GREATER MANCHESTER CHAMBER OF COMMERCE
In this interview on The Logros Show – in association with The Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce – Lee Dinsdale talks to Chris Fletcher from the Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce about the Chamber and the benefits and support its’ members can enjoy.
Interview with Chris Fletcher at Unity Radio – The Real Sound of the City.
Lee said: This is Unity Radio, the real sound of the city and this is the Logros show Achieving Excellence in association with the Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce. Each week here on the Logros show we invite guests from the world of entrepreneurs, health, wellbeing and sport to share their stories of inspiration. This week we thought we would invite the Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce into the studio so I have Chris Fletcher, good afternoon Chris.
Chris said: Good afternoon.
Lee said: How are you doing?
Chris said: Absolutely superb.
Lee said: Today we are going to be talking more about what is the Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce so let’s just crack on Chris. What benefits do they have for members, who are the members and how can you join.
Chris said: Yes, you’ve probably heard of the Chamber of Commerce – or maybe not. Basically we are a member organisation so if you are in business you can be a member of the Chamber of Commerce. We are the largest Chamber in the Uk. We’ve got over 4,800 members throughout the whole of Greater Manchester so it’s not just Manchester, Salford or whatever. It’s all the 10 boroughs within Greater Manchester. Those businesses come from a wide variety of sectors and sizes and all different stages as well. So we’ve got some very young new start-up businesses right through to some quite large multinationals like the airporting membership. Basically we try to facilitate and put them together, network and help them grow their business and do their business better.
Lee said: You mentioned there some younger businesses. Would that mean there a lot of members who are start-ups?
Chris said: Yes we get them at all stages so people sometimes come to us before they’ve even started a business wanting to know what to do to get the business up and running. We’ve got a variety of options that we can point them too and whatever. As I said we’ve got them from the very early stages where they are looking to grow their market really so they want more connections. They want to network with people and they want to tell more people about what it is they are actually doing.
Lee said: On that point you mentioned that you’ve got people who are thinking about setting up a business. For those people listening who may be, or may be in a job, may be in college (you are based on Deansgate in city centre) if they knocked on your door and said ’I’m thinking of setting up a business’ what kind of support would someone expect?
Chris said: Basically what we can do is we can point people in the right direction. If you are starting up a business you want some specialist help really. We are a little bit more generalist and that’s what we would do for example. We would point you to maybe the Growth Hub in Manchester that deal with a lot of start-up businesses. They run courses and do all sorts of things to help people. We can give general advice and support. I would suggest if you are thinking of starting up go speak to the experts. It doesn’t mean to say we can’t help you but really at that very first stage you really need to have that real expert support behind you. It doesn’t mean to say we can’t do anything for you but, we generally tend to find that once you have started your business, that’s when people come back to us and say right we’ve started our business now and are in the first couple of weeks of operating but we don’t know where our customers are. We don’t know who we should be speaking to. We don’t know what else we need etc. and that’s when we can come in and start to take you on to that next level.
We would point you to maybe the Growth Hub in Manchester that deal with a lot of start-up businesses. They run courses and do all sorts of things to help people. We can give general advice and support. I would suggest if you are thinking of starting up go speak to the experts.
Lee said: Let’s get into the membership. How do you join the chamber?
Chris said: There is a fee. It’s a small monthly fee. It ranges from a couple of hundred pounds for a sole trader right up to a lot more. It depends on how many people you employ. If you are a start-up more often than not there is probably just yourself and somebody else, it’s a few hundred pounds a year. You can pay that over a monthly basis. It’s a very simple form; you can join online as well. Normally we tend to try and at least speak to somebody off our accounts team. Our membership team will be in touch with you, one of our account managers and just make sure that you understand what it is you are signing up for, but also point to you in the right direction of services and benefits that are really good for you.
Lee said: Okay we’ll come back on to the benefits in a sec but let’s just go back to so you’ve been trading for a few months; you’re struggling and thinking I need a bit of support. You walk through the door, you’ve joined. What is the first level of support that the chamber would offer someone in business?
Chris said: The biggest reason that people join the chamber is just to grow and expand their business and we can offer a range of network events. People hear networking and go ‘oh my god’ and run in the opposite direction. We see it as, not forcing people to speak to other people but if you come along to some of our events it’s quite informal. It’s just gets you talking to other people and it’s about making those connections. It’s about meeting other people and if you are a start-up business and working on your own it can be very lonely. The actual fact of talking to somebody else realises that it’s not just you. There are other people facing those sort of issues as well but you are also making those connections. We speak to members that have formed connections several years ago with people at networking events. Sometimes they do business at other times they don’t but at least it’s part of that wider business community. It’s about growing your connections.
Lee said: I know when people talk about networking they think, oh I’ve got to go into this room and make all these new mates – the fear comes over you! I can imagine though the chamber has different styles of networking events. Therefore it isn’t just walking into a room full of strangers where you’ve got to walk up to someone. You’ve got different styles?
Chris said: Absolutely. We do some that are really completely informal. There are no speeches or anything like that, it’s just about getting in there and meeting people or you can ask a member of staff. This is why we’ve got a great team of account managers at the Chamber. You can perhaps have a word with them before the event and say, look I’m really after such and suchabody or whatever it is and we can make those introductions for you. So we can take that fear factor out.
Lee said: Okay so the first kind of support is networking. What else does the Chamber help with?
Chris said: Well the legal and technical stuff, so if you are invoicing people or you have to make contracts for doing business with people. You may be looking at taking your first member of staff on. Hopefully if we get our job right and you are doing your business right you’ll be growing and possibly be looking at employing somebody. For somebody doing it for the first time it can be a bit of a minefield. You really have got to get it right. If you get that bit wrong you can be really in trouble. So we can offer a range of free services, things like contracts of employment and letters you can write to people that you can download from our legal services. People get that access absolutely free. So for stuff like that we can offer that as part of your membership.
Lee said: Well I actually know that bit! That’s mega and we do speak to various business owners and the biggest challenges when you have just started up, you may own a retail shop, or whatever it is and you think, I need to bring another member of staff on. Where do you start? You don’t know much about HR, contracts of employment, that’s a bit of a concern and you kind of may avoid it, or you may just completely mess it up and before your know it you have a HR problem where someone is suing you for unfair dismissal further down the line.
Chris said: Absolutely. It’s important that you get that bit right. That can really have a major impact on your business, and not in a good way. Again there is that help and advice that is available and we have a free legal helpline so, even if it’s not employing somebody you might just have somebody that refuses to pay you or whatever it may be, there is a free legal helpline.
Lee said: Refusing to pay?
Chris said: Yes we can point you in the right direction – sounds like you’re having some troubles!
Lee said: No, I’m troubleshooting because these are the everyday things that people put their head in their hands about.
Chris said: Yes and just coming back to the point about networking, if you build up people that can support you in your business, they are there to help you as well.
Lee said: Thank you very much Chris.
Article Transcription by Terry Capostagno
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